In February 2001, Jeffrey Skilling was moving up in the world. He had given up his long tenure as Enron's chief operating officer to assume the mantle of CEO, a first-class title if there ever was one. Then, a mere six months later, he resigned the post. Prior to the resignation, he had allegedly dumped 450,000 shares for an estimated $33 million, but he assured stockholders that his resignation had "nothing to do with Enron," citing the ever-popular "personal reasons" for his hasty exit instead.
In a company, as on a ship, the man at the top is the captain. So when the ship sinks, he must hold his head high, man up and sink with it. Unless of course, he's Ken Lay, in which case the thing to do is plead ignorance and then blame someone else. In an interview with "60 Minutes," he declared that the company's chief financial officer, Andrew Fastow, had orchestrated all the shenanigans, with Lay none the wiser. Attorney Bill Lerach, who sued Enron's accountants, didn't buy it. "This is what I call the Elmer Fudd defense," he said. "I went to work every day and was paid $6 million a year and had a Ph.D. in economics -- and somehow, despite all of this, I didn't know anything that was going on."
In May 2004, justice was served. Well, sort of. A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of over 20,000 employees who had lost a combined $2 billion in pension money. However, the judge only awarded them $85 million. This broke down to just over $3,000 per person, a fraction of what the employees had lost.
In September 2008, Enron reached a settlement in a $40 billion lawsuit filed on behalf of a large group of shareholders. The award was just over $7 billion dollars, which came out to under $5,000 per person when split among 1.5 million plaintiffs. However, Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman and Robbins, the law firm that represented them, received $688 million in fees, the largest amount ever received in a securities fraud case in the United States.
When Enron sold assets at a September 2002 auction, everything was up for grabs, including staplers, an air hockey table, coffee mugs and so forth. But surely, the ultimate trophy that day was a stainless-steel "tilted-E" sign that once stood sentry-like outside of one of the company's satellite offices. The sign sold for $44,000 to an employee of Microcache Computers on behalf of his boss, who had instructed him to "just do anything to get it." Among the other attendees at the auction was former employee